Hebei Lansheng Biotech Co., Ltd. ShangHai Yuelian Biotech Co., Ltd.

A ″second harvest″ for farmers — turning agricultural waste into useful and valuable productsqrcode

Feb. 7, 2023

Favorites Print
Feb. 7, 2023


The current buzzwords or hot topics around the globe in terms of food production are sustainable and regenerative agriculture, Farm to Fork Strategy being the heart of the ″Green Deal″ of Europe, climate change mitigation, precision farming, AgTech, traceability using blockchain technology, circular economy, amongst others.

From these buzzwords, one can see that the focus is most definitely on ways and means to produce more with less—producing more food with less environmentally damaging inputs and practices. 

Of course ways and means, or technology and products such as biostimulants to increase nutrient use efficiency and hence cutting back on chemical fertilizer applications are highly sought after. In addition, biopesticides to supplement conventional chemical pesticide usage will allow the reduction of usage of the latter. These relatively new technologies and products fit very well into the European Farm to Fork Strategy, which calls for 50% reduction in the application of chemical pesticides and 20% reduction of chemical fertilizer usage by 2030.

Whilst sustainability in food production is the focus, we should not by any means ignore the major impact of a ″second harvest″ for the farmers, that is, turning agricultural waste into valuable products. Hence, we should now add ″second harvest″ into the list of buzzwords mentioned above.

Agricultural waste

Common agricultural waste, for instance straws of cereals such as rice, wheat, barley and oats are generated by the billions of tonnes a year. For tree crops such as oil palm and rubber, old trees with declining productivity or yield are felled by the millions annually. 

Many tonnes of fibres such as pineapple leaves are also generated as agricultural waste annually around the tropical agricultural belt. 

Let us use this agricultural waste as examples and see how new technologies have been developed to allow farmers of these crops reap a ″second harvest″ to not only providing them with additional income and profit but also mitigating climate change and contributing to sustainable food production at the same time.

Turning Oil Palm Trunks (OPT) into useful wood products

For years and years, old oil palm trunks (OPT) were burnt in open fields, causing serious cross-border air pollution. Lately, large oil palm plantations have started a more environmentally-friendly way of treating mostly useless OPT by chipping them and spreading or piling the chips in the field. This incurs expenses of course and also harbours pests such as snakes and rats aside from being a source of plant diseases for the next crop. In addition, as they decay, these wood chips emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere .

The current 4th generation owner of a German wood working machinery manufacturing company called Moehringer has innovated and patented machinery and technology to convert OPT to valuable wood products for manufacturing furniture, doors, windows, kitchen cabinets and other interior home wood products . Global demand for furniture is currently valued at USD 527 billion and is expected to grow annually by 6.3%.

Valuable wood products produced from OPT are superior to particle boards derived from rubber wood. They are solid, light-weight and designed to attain excellent product features including bending strength, screw holding capacity and fire resistance. Currently, use of OPT is limited to a couple of manufacturing facilities in Malaysia producing low-value plywood products for wooden pallet packaging, cement boards and some for low-end use furniture items which have had  mixed results due to technical challenges. 

The valuable wood products derived from OPT are calculated and targeted to be cost-competitive compared to current wood products of comparable quality in the market.

Demand for the OPT wood products are assured in affluent regions such as China and NE Asia and the Middle East where there is no forestry industry and hence all wood products are imported. Demand in Europe is also expected to be strong as the wood products will be from Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)-compliant enterprises as well as being derived from a circular-economy oriented process, contributing to a sustainable future. 


It’s time to have a new life


Based on the current 22 million hectares of oil palm plantations in S E Asia and future expansion of the crop up to 2040, this plantation industry can support 140 increasing to 280 OPT processing factories. A full-scale pioneer factory is being set up in Malaysia and is expected to be on-stream by April 2023. Current OPT processing factory investment potential is about Euro 3.5 Billion.  The positive impact on additional income for the oil palm plantations and farmers and climate change mitigation is enormous, needless to say.

Turning cereal straws and other agricultural fibres into wood-free and plastic-free products and technical solutions for industries to make them more sustainable.

Tensei, a UK-based company’s philosophy is: ″We think it is smart to use what is wasted and not waste what is precious.″ They are a pioneering  biobased material developer and demonstrated that these materials can be used with minimal disruption to existing operational processes.


Their innovations help protect the planet. They utilize alternative natural fibres to engineer the next generation of materials. These are bespoke products that use agricultural waste of crops, perennial grasses or unrealized bio-waste streams from places like the food manufacturing industry.


Tensei provide alternative raw materials to reduce dependence on wood, keeping trees in the ground and as an alternative to plastic, producing both wood-free and plastic-free technical solutions and products.


They have innovated food contact approved papers made from 100% crop waste and grasses and plastic free, 100% certified recyclable. 


In addition, they have also innovated bio-based injection moulding pellets made from UK bio-waste with polypropylene compound for injection moulding.


More R&D and innovation as well as products are on-going.

Turning pineapple fibres into wearable leather and clothing

The pineapple industry globally produces 40,000 tonnes of waste leaves each year, which are usually left to rot or are burned. These provide a valuable amount of agricultural waste material for conversion to useful products such as leather and clothing. 

Any natural fibre that can substitute the traditional textile material will contribute to mitigating climate change and enhance sustainability. 


In terms air pollution, at least 10% of the global carbon emissions are contributed by the textile industry. In terms of water pollution, agricultural runoffs from cotton cultivation and dyeing processes severely degrade nearby water bodies and ecosystem quality due to the large-scale use of chemical insecticides and  chemical fertilizers. And for land pollution, all polyester-related textiles entering into landfills will continue to stay put for several decades and even centuries before they are finally decomposed.

Nextevo is a Singaporean start-up that is converting discarded pineapple leaves into high-value fibres. They specialize in transforming agricultural waste into natural, environmentally-friendly materials and products for use in value-added applications such as clothing. Their operations are strategically located in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand where the crop is planted in large scale.

Pineapple leather, also known as Piñatex, made by Ananas Anam Ltd. is an innovative and sustainable material made from pineapple leaves making it a great natural and environmentally friendly alternative to real leather. 

The inventor of Pinatex was inspired by the Barong, a traditional Philippine garment worn untucked over an undershirt and made of pineapple fibres. 


The turning of agricultural waste into valuable products as shown above truly gives farmers a ″second harvest″, boosting their income while at the same time, having a significant positive impact by mitigating climate change, enabling a circular economy and contributing to sustainable agriculture and food production. 


Source: AgroNews


More from AgroNewsChange

Hot Topic More

Subscribe Comment


Subscribe Email: *
Mobile Number:  





Subscribe AgroNews Daily Alert to send news related to your mailbox